Thursday, March 31, 2011

Banished to beyond the double doors

At the beginning of the school year, I was among the privileged few, allowed to walk into the classroom.

In the mornings, when I walked my son to school, we'd see parents dropping off their kids from their cars. But my son wasn't interested in that. He wanted me to park, to walk with him into the school, into the classroom. We held hands. He waved a sleepy goodbye.

By the beginning of the second semester, things had changed a bit. I still parked, but I had been relegated to the hallway. I wasn't supposed to come in - unless there was a very good reason. Even then, I'd sometimes get a mortified look and a whisper. "Mom! What are you doing in here?"

A few weeks ago, I lost the hand. I understood. He was in second grade, after all, and his friends were around. He didn't want to be seen holding hands with mommy, after all.

But today, I was banished - to outside the double doors. I was unprepared for this one. It stung.

"Can't I come inside with you?" I asked, a little plaintively.
"No," he said decisively. "I'm fine." And he turned and walked away without looking back.

I waited, watching to make sure he turned into his classroom door. He did, of course, just like he had every other day this year.

I walked away quickly, my head down. Suddenly, the schoolyard didn't seem such a happy place anymore. I fell in behind two moms also walking back to their cars.

"Well, at least you got a hug," one of them said to the other.
The other one laughed. "True," she said. "But I don't know how much longer that'll last."

Maybe I'll laugh about it, too. Tomorrow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Be nice

The light had barely changed from red to green when the lady in the car behind me laid on her horn. I wasn't daydreaming. I hadn't hesitated. I literally had just started shifting my foot from the brake to the accelerator. I was a little shaken.

Standing in the work cafeteria line, waiting to pay for a bag of chips, I heard the man in front of me - the one wearing the $200 suit - let out a huge, wet-sounding belch. He glanced back at me and shrugged. No "sorry." No "excuse me." Nothing.

And yesterday, pulling out of the grocery store lot, I was cut off by someone who zipped out in front me and zoomed out into traffic.

A lot of stuff like that has been happening lately. Doors swinging back in my face. A mess left in the office kitchen. Rudeness I didn't ask for and didn't understand. It made me mad. Then it made me sad. I started thinking: Isn't anybody just plain nice anymore?

At church, our priest told the story of how he had taken his 92-year-old mother out to dinner at a local restaurant. It was crowded, and they were waiting for their names to be called for a seat. The wait was about 20 minutes. His mother ended up leaning against the lobby wall. Not one person - including a family with three able-bodied, texting teens - offered to give up a seat. They apparently didn't think about it, and their parents didn't tell them to.

That made me even sadder. I don't want to be like that. I don't want my kids to be like that, either. I vowed I wouldn't; that I would go against the grain and try to be nicer. Then I found out I wasn't alone.

Check out you know what? The world is mean enough already.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Oooh, ahhh ... your dryer lint is beautiful"

It's not always easy to hold the attention of 30 second graders trapped in a classroom on a sunny, almost-warm Michigan morning. Unless you have a secret weapon. Unless you have ... DRYER LINT!!!

I was talking about art to the kids in my son's classroom and telling about artists who made creations from modern-day things.

I'd told about Stan Munro, who re-created incredible architectural classics from around the world out of toothpicks. I'd discussed Jason Mecier, who'd created a jaw-dropping installation in a friend's house from more than 185,000 colored pencils. I'd shown photos, of course.

The kids thought it was all pretty cool. But there was still some shifting and whispering. Then I got to Heidi Hooper - admittedly my absolute favorite. She's a Pennsylvania-based artist, a former sculptor and silversmith who found herself weakened and slowed by cancer. But an artist is an artist, and she longed to create. So she began making art with .... DRYER LINT. She makes beautiful drawings, many of adorable animals, with, yes, lint.(She has a sense of humor about it. But it's pretty amazing. Check it out at

Anyway, I wasn't sure that second graders would know what a sheet of dryer lint would look like, so I grabbed one from our dryer's lint trap right before I left.

As I pulled it from my bag, I heard the collective gasp.

"That's beautiful," said one girl.
"It looks so soft," said a boy. "It's like ... a lamb."

They held it, passed it around, fought over it. Then I had their undivided attention.

I graciously left it with the teacher. The kids were so impressed, it almost made doing all that laundry worth it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stuart Little, Chicken Little, whatever ...

My son picked up a box on the couch, looked at the cover and then looked at me.

"Mom, what's 'House'?" he asked, holding up a DVD set of the TV show "House" I had just borrowed from my brother.

"House is the last name of a doctor," I told him. "He works in a hospital with sick people."

My son looked vaguely alarmed. So I decided to calm him down by using a term his second-grade class had just learned.

"But the show is fiction," I emphasized. "House isn't real. He's just a character." Then I made what I thought was a brilliant connection. "In fact, the actor who plays House is the same actor who played the dad in Stuart Little!"

My son just looked at me for a minute. Then he started laughing - laughing really, really hard.

"THE CHICKEN??" he finally said, gasping for air. "HE WAS THAT BIG CHICKEN??"

Um, what? Then I realized his mistake.

"No, no, honey," I said. "Not Chicken Little. Stuart Little."

He stopped laughing and slid off the couch. "Oh," he said, hardly as impressed. "Okay."

Don't pay any attention to him, Hugh Laurie. I still think you're great.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Katie reminded me to be grateful

Once a month, our family attends a little program at our church that's designed to help us understand the Bible. Now, before that sounds too heavy, let me add that the program usually includes skits, dinner and a lot of giggling from our table.

This month, one of the exercises for the kids was to write something from the heart. I asked my 12-year-old daughter if I could share what she wrote, and she said yes. Here it is:

"Dear to whoever is reading this, be grateful.

For even the poorest and the sickest of the church mice are blessed with everyday miracles, even if they don't realize it.

Life, laughter, joy, emotions - humans are blessed with all of these. Cherish them."

Katie M.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Txting the peeps? Who IS this kid?

My daughter was sitting in the back seat of the car, very excited about her new phone and not at all interested in what I was saying.

"Just a second, mom," she told me, looking up distractedly. "I'm texting my peeps."

What? Who IS this kid? Who is this kid who is teaching me how to upload videos to YouTube? Who already has an online art portfolio? Who texts with her thumbs almost as fast as I type on home row?

She's 12. I think when I was 12, I was reading "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

She's not all grown up, of course. We still snuggle together on Friday nights to watch movies, we still giggle late at night when everyone's asleep.

I can't make myself say "Kids grow up so fast these days," because I know I'll sound like I'm wearing supp-hose and those stretch pants with the waistband that settles in right under the boobs.

So let's just say I'm clinging to all the mom-daughter moments I can get. Because I kow they won't last too long.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tae kwon do brings kids together again

As I write this, my son and daughter are playing downstairs. I don't know what they're doing, exactly, but there's a lot of thumping and bumping and they're laughing like crazy. Just listening to them is making me laugh.

My daughter is 12; my son 8. I know lot of parents who have trouble with their kids fighting at this age. After all, Katie is a tween, and Sean isn't too fond of girls his age. But I'm lucky. Since the day Sean was born, Katie has always taken care of him. And he has always idolized her.

In the early mornings, they'd make each other giggle as they watched cartoons and got ready for school. When Sean started kindergarten, Katie held his hand. They'd walk home together.

This year, things changed. Katie started middle school. Sean is still in elementary school. The mornings are quieter. Sean was lonely sometimes, and he said so.

But now they're in class together again - in tae kwon do. For months, Sean has gone with me as we took Katie to class. He'd play and color while I read. He never showed the slightest interest in joining in. Until one day, he did. Last week was his first class. He loves it. She loves being with him in a blended class; she's so proud of him. The teacher thinks it's great.

Tae kwon do is hardly the venue to get overly sentimental. But seeing them together again makes me incredibly happy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Please, no more - I've been over pitched

I'm cleaning out my e-mail listings this week. Ruthlessly. I just can't take it anymore. I've been over pitched. Stop trying to sell me stuff. Just stop.

Goodbye, motivational coaches, whose weekly posts are thinly disguised ads for your services, self-promotions, and heaven help me - your cruises. No offense, but if I go on a cruise, I want champagne and roses - not whine and cheese.

So long, self-help gurus, who send weekly dollops of advice sandwiched between constant ads for hundred dollar luncheons and promos for the services of your equally overpriced friends. What did I buy that got me on these lists in the first place? Sheesh. How needy am I?

So see ya, daily and weekly ads for silly products I can't afford (automatic vegetable slicers?) and makeup I don't need. Bare Escentuals, I love you. But at $25 for foundation, you need to lay off the mass mailings.

All I'm keeping is the ads for book sales. I love you guys. And independent merchants, you're cool. Otherwise, it would be nice to open up my mail and find ... a letter.

Oh, hello. I believe you've just met my mother.